Former council president Kevin Bennett may run for District 1 council seat

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— Former Steamboat Springs City Council President Kevin Bennett is considering running for a second tour of duty on a "back to basics" platform of protecting the city's water, expanding parks and open space and slowing the pace of development in Steamboat Springs.

Bennett served eight years on the council, from 1993 to 2001, and was president of the body from 1995 to 2001. Bennett has distributed surveys throughout the community in an effort to determine whether there is support for his candidacy and said he expects to make a decision within days. He said he would run for a four-year, District 1 seat representing western Steamboat and much of Old Town.

"I'm considering it. I'm talking to a lot of people in the community, asking questions," Bennett said. "I want to see how engaged the community is."

In 2004, Bennett received the city's prestigious, biennial Steamboat Springs Heritage Award - which recognizes outstanding community citizenship and qualities including human service, open space preservation and maintenance of community character - for his open space preservation and work in the construction of Centennial Hall, an effort that preserved the Carver Power Plant and created a community meeting area and city offices.

While acknowledging some of his past achievements, one current council member and potential opponent in this year's election, Cari Hermacinski, said Bennett's arguments against the current council are unfounded. Whether Bennett has the support to get elected could depend on how satisfied residents are with the current council.

"I would run as the loyal opposition," he said. "I would offer a completely different direction for the city."

If Bennett's potential candidacy is any indication, growth and development will be a major issue in the 2009 election, just as it was in 2007. Bennett said the current council is hurrying development projects and proposed annexations, and the survey he sent out asks whether all annexations more than 5 acres should go to a citywide vote, whether the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation should go to a vote and whether people "care that council members meet privately with developers."

"I think the rapid expansion we're seeing here is being rushed at the expense of the local citizenry and taxpayers," Bennett said.

Bennett cites water issues as his main example and decried the fact council has voted not to require water rights in its annexation agreement with Steamboat 700, which proposes 2,000 homes west of existing city limits. Bennett said that decision is "unfair to citizens of Old Town and unheard of in contemporary annexations."

The current council, its attorneys and city staff said they instead were comfortable accepting about $1 million earmarked for water projects, because the city's Water Supply Master Plan found that the city has a reliable long-term source of raw water but that it should "increase redundancy in the community's water supply."

Bennett disagrees.

"We don't have this sort of capacity," he said. "We will have redundancy but no reserves."

If Bennett decides to run, he may face off against his Old Town neighbor in the November election. Hermacinski has not decided whether she will run for the same four-year, District 1 seat as Bennett or the two-year, at-large seat she holds now.

Hermacinski said she absolutely disagrees with Bennett's claims that the city has been irresponsible about water. Bennett claims the current City Council let the city's water fund reserves dip as low as $15,000 before it raised rates by 50 percent late last year. Hermacinski said that's not true, and a report from the city's Finance Department shows the water fund's unrestricted, unreserved balance at the end of 2008 was about $100,000. That figure is down from $1.9 million at the end of 2007 and $2.6 million at the end of 2006.

By raising rates, Hermacinski said, this council was actually the first to do something about the problem. The city's failure to increase water rates for the past 15 years, as well as the habit of subsidizing the operating budget with tap fees that should go toward capital reserves, were thought to contribute to the water fund crisis.

Hermacinski said she also doesn't think the city is rushing Steamboat 700.

"It's been almost a two-year process," she said.

Other candidates who have confirmed their candidacy for this year's City Council election include incumbent Councilman Walter Magill, who holds a District 3 seat representing southern Steamboat; and local businessman Kenny Reisman, who said he would run for the four-year, District 2 seat representing the mountain area. Term-limited City Council President Loui Antonucci is vacating that seat.

City Clerk Julie Franklin said nomination petitions can't be released to potential candidates until Aug. 4. The last day to file petitions is Aug. 24. In the meantime, it is unclear who else might vie for the council seats.

Comments

stillinsteamboat 5 years, 4 months ago

Kevin could make for a more balanced Council. Much more experience. I didn't always agree with Kevin but I think we may need him now.

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BoatNative 5 years, 4 months ago

Please run, Kevin. We need your balanced voice on the council and Hermacinski is the wrong person to take Steamboat forward.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 4 months ago

I noticed that the 700 development subject came up here, as I suspect it will for most candidates, looking to election day. 700 has followed the direction that our community has laid out over the last 15 years. They have invested heavily and are trying to address all concerns. The economy has certainly taken a toll on them, and they are still fighting to give us an organized project that will probably go away if they fail. I certainly hope that candidates do not try to use this project as a springboard to election. The voters will never be up on the details and planning, enough to make an intelligent decision. Candidates can use this project for personal gain with very little to lose, but the developers stand to lose millions, not fair, and I hope candidates exhibit a sense of decency here. This is much like terrorism where the perpetrator spends a dollar, and we spend a billion to respond. We had a similar situation years ago when a candidate fought the court location west of town and ended up costing the county an extra $739,000. The community can not afford more of the same, and I think it shortsighted to go down this road. The present council has restored respect to the entity after years of what I would consider an embarrasment. Let's keep agenda and egos at home and build on the common sense approach.

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greenwash 5 years, 4 months ago

Fred,You are so out of touch man.Your like the old grandpa that everyone just shakes there head about.

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elphaba 5 years, 4 months ago

Kevin on Council would be one small step back for Kevin and one gigantic leap backward for Steamboat Springs and its citizens.

Don't gloss over the corruption and unpleasantness that characterized his time on Council. What this means is "no growth" unless Kevin or his friends can directly and personally benefit.

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